Yveline Previl-Exantus one year after her second big chop.
Have you or someone you know been thinking or talking about “going natural,” making the “big chop” or growing locs? Well, I used to think this emerging trend was solely limited to my circle of friends but I now understand that we’re part of a growing movement. A sort of awakening is in progress. I can feel a change in the air, and it certainly feels like we are on the verge of a natural-hair revolution!
Lately, within the past year or so, there has been a lot of discussion about natural hair. Chris Rock’s Good Hair might have been the catalyst, drawing attention to the issues surrounding black hair, but since then, the revolution has picked up speed. New YouTube videos and Facebook pages on the subject are popping up daily, and a wealth of information on how to style, maintain and care for natural hair await anyone the least bit interested in learning more. We are doing away with the chemical relaxers and opting for natural curls, coils and kinks and are eager to share this rediscovered love.
Traditional hibiscus leaf cleanser. A gentle no-poo method. Photo compliments Caribbean Natural
Black women are caring for our natural tresses in new ways and are falling in love with our different grades of hair all over again. We’ve gotten a little help from beauty lines like Carol’s Daughter, and Mixed Chicks, lines specially developed to treat our hair and skin, but we’re also exhuming homemade concoctions.
My Caribbean heritage is rich with natural recipes made from aloe and hibiscus leaves, coconut oil, castor oil and honey.
Hand-made 100 percent PURE St. Lucian Castor Oil. Image compliments Caribbean Natural
All these ingredients are found right in the garden or kitchen cupboard and I’m making the best of it. Not only am I embracing my roots by returning to these old recipes, but I also manage to save money while seeing and feeling the difference in my hair and on my skin. Ingredients like these make hair happy and we keep finding new ways to showcase our individualities.
No two heads of hair are the same, so the magic lies in this diversity and the ways in which we choose to showcase that versatility. We are learning to moisturize, accessorize, massage, twist, lock, curl and braid as we embrace individuality and breathe new life into our hair. I for one am loving it!
My sister Melissa and I way before the relaxer or big chop.
In essence, black women are re-learning to love their hair and I couldn’t be happier or prouder. Together, we brave and beautiful women, are raising consciousness about our hair and ultimately our health as we stop to consider the effects of certain ingredients found in products currently on the shelves.
I know it may sound strange to say we are “re-learning” to love our natural hair, because we start off both natural and loving our hair, but that sentiment usually gets turned around before the age of ten for black girls. Some parents start the ritual of straightening girls’ hair from as early as four.
Getting one’s hair straightened, either through applied heat or a relaxer, is a sort of rite of passage for us. I remember family discussions about when I would be old enough for the application of my first relaxer, which happened about the age of nine by the way, because my mother couldn’t handle the texture. I never had a problem with my hair but learned to want something different and I trusted that my mother knew best. I still remember getting my hair styled in cornrows and two-strand-twists in my earliest childhood and I always liked it. I especially liked adding colorful beads to the ends, not just for the appearance, but the pleasing sound they made near my ears.
After my first straightener, my hair felt softer, lighter, longer, but also thinner, more fragile and somehow foreign. It never did feel completely mine. I don’t think I understood that I was saying goodbye to my natural hair for the next seven years and I understood even less that I would miss my natural hair so much. I would miss the way it felt to pass a comb through it, or how it looked with neat rows of well oiled cornrows.
Ashlei Alexander rocking a pipe-cleaner mohawk up-do. Photo compliments Loc'd and Lovin' it!
I kept my hair relaxed (usually wearing it up-in-one because I hated sleeping with rollers) for many years until I was sixteen and therefore old enough to make the decision to go natural again. I took the “big chop” and about five years later, decided to grow locs. I’ve been happy with my hair ever since but only now can I truly say that I have re-learned to love my hair.
A few of my friends have started Facebook pages “Caribbean Natural”run by
TheQuitabee and “Loc’d and Lovin’ it!” run by Nikita Alcide are a couple of my favorites. I check these pages regularly for new posts because I enjoy their tips, styles, videos and photos. I also try to add my voice to the mix by participating in their discussions whenever possible. It makes me feel good to share what I find there and I find myself using more and more home recipes. For instance, I’ve adopted a deep banana conditioner and monthly ACV (apple-cider vinegar) rinse into my regimen. The banana promotes manageability, shine, growth and controls dandruff while the vinegar removes build-up and residue from hair-shafts and closes the cuticles.
I’ve also learned about sister locs, a very popular style in London, and endless variations on styles for all lengths and textures.
TheQuitabeeof Caribbean Natural wearing her chunky fro.
People like Lauryn Hill, Jill scott, India Airie and especially Bob Marley, and entire Rastafari culture, have all influenced me and my love of natural hair.
I’ve always known that natural hair is beautiful no matter what the $1.8 billion black hair product market says with its weaves, wigs and relaxers. I’m just happy more black women are returning to their roots and taking the initiative by finding out and sharing all we know about hair. Not only it is healthier, but I swear; natural hair looks better.